Restoration processes after need thwarting: When autonomy depends on competence

Abstract

Like other fundamental needs, recent studies have shown that the need for autonomy elicits goal-oriented behaviors that aim to its restoration when it is thwarted. However, no research has yet examined the factors that moderate the restoration process. In the present studies, we investigated the moderating role of perceived competence in the restoration of autonomy. We monitored autonomy restoration behaviors by assessing the extent to which participants turn away from a controlling function in a computerized puzzle task. Across the two studies, the results suggested that, in comparison with baseline participants, autonomy-deprived participants acted to regain their autonomy but only when their level of perceived competence in the task was high. When perceived competence was low, participants disengaged from autonomy restoration, seemingly to favor competence. These findings are discussed using self-determination theory and models of stress and coping.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    It should be noted that while some people have used the terms situational appraisal of control and subjective or perceived control, others have used the term perceived competence to refer to this moderator. However, as Skinner mentioned (Skinner 1995; Skinner and Greene 2008), all these labels refer to the same construct. They all come from White’s (1959) concept of feelings of efficacy. In the present research, we chose to use the term perceived competence because it is more in line with the SDT framework, and because this prevents any confusions with the terms ‘controlling’ or ‘controlled’ used to refer to autonomy threatening contexts in this framework.

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Correspondence to Rémi Radel.

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Radel, R., Pelletier, L. & Sarrazin, P. Restoration processes after need thwarting: When autonomy depends on competence. Motiv Emot 37, 234–244 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11031-012-9308-3

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Keywords

  • Autonomy
  • Need restoration
  • Self-determination theory
  • Perceived competence
  • Coping strategies